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Soccer-Benzema failures diminish France World Cup chances


By Julien Pretot

PARIS, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Striker Karim Benzema's failure to score in his last 15 France matches has seriously diminished his team's hopes of qualifying directly for next year's World Cup finals.

The Real Madrid forward, who has gone over 20 hours without finding the back of the net with Les Bleus, produced yet another abysmal performance as France drew 0-0 with Georgia in their qualifying Group I in Tbilisi on Friday.

The result left them second on 11 points with two games remaining, three point behind group leaders Spain who beat Finland 2-0 on Friday and on course for an unwanted place in the playoffs.

Benzema had one chance in his 62-minute appearance, which he blew with a weak shot at keeper Giorgi Loria.

"Sometimes we do good things, there are nice moves but at the end of the day we do not score. We must continue to work and hope it will work for the next game," Benzema was quoted as saying in French media on Saturday.

"I know when I'm good or not. (Against Georgia) I haven't been terrific."

Asked about Benzema's performance, coach Didier Deschamps, who has consistently been putting the Real Madrid player in the starting 11 despite his failure to score, said he did not want to focus on individual performances.

Benzema, however, has already been warned by Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti that he should work more after he was booed by the Bernabeu crowd when replaced in a 3-1 win against Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

"Benzema was whistled a bit, while (Angel) di Maria was applauded by the whole stadium," the Italian said. "The fans look closely at the players. It's a very clear sign for everyone that hard work is applauded."

France next face Belarus away on Tuesday hoping to level with Spain, who will play their last two matches at home against Belarus and Georgia next month.

"There is no miracle but I don't want to be pessimistic," said Deschamps.

"We are still on schedule. We can't score so it's impossible to win a game. But we'll draw the conclusion on Oct. 15 (after the home game against Finland)." (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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